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Flashcards in The Social Brain Deck (44):

Brain size

Body weight increases quicker than brain weight (Roth & Dicke, 2005).
- brains of hominoids evolved faster than apes.
- homosapiens have largest relative brain size.

Special case primates:
- evolvement of large brains happened to all vertebrate taxa.
- but social brain hypothesis different in other mammals and birds.
- eg. bird brain size related to pair bonding.

Humans/primates = related to stable relationships and social network size (Shultze & Dunbar, 2007).
- possibly due to cognitive demands of sociality placing a constraint on number of people that can be maintained in a coherent group (Dunbar, 2009).


Evolvement of the neocortex: (NC + allocortex = cerebral cortex)

Neocortex = largest and outer part of the cerebral cortex covering two hemispheres.
- responsible for higher functions.

Allocortex = smaller, mainly olfactory system and hippocampus.


Evolvement of the neocortex: neocortex

Evolution of the brain:
- reptilian brain -> mammalian brain -> neocortex.
- breathing/hunger/temperature -> memory/love/anxiety/sociality/fear -> logic/language/morality/emotional control etc.

Functions: survival -> adaptation to environment -> high functions.

Neocortex is necessary for high social functions - our most powerful "tool".


Evolvement of the neocortex: cost of a large brain

Brain responsible for 22% resting energy expenditure (McClave & Snider, 2001).
- 2/3 of neural firing; 1/3 for maintenance.
- some say that liver costs more.


Evolvement of the neocortex: evolution of the neocortex

Needs large brain to support it.

Large brain demands sufficient energy supply (nutritious diet).
- some argue that the use of fire improved nutrition intake and is a key factor in human evolution.

Social brain can benefit the species and offset extra energy demand (Dunbar & Shultz, 2007).


Social brain hypothesis

Proposed by Dunbar - argues human intelligence did not evolve primarily as a means of ecological problems, but instead as a means of survival and reproducing in large social groups.


Brain and social networks: neocortex in primates

Neocortex: accounts for most of the differences between living primate taxa (Stephan, 1972; Passingham, 1982).

Sociality: Our evolutionary goal.


Brain and social networks: neocortex ratio (in comparison to rest of brain)

Neocortex ratio (CR) = NC volume / (brain volume - NC volume)

In humans NC volume = 1006.5cc.
Total brain volume = 1251.8cc (Stephen et al, 1981).

About 50% larger than the max value for any other primate species (Dunbar, 1992).


Brain and social networks: ecological or social?

Primates have larger brains because:

Ecological theory (eg. Gibson, 1986) - large brains provide ecological functions of cognitive skills.
- especially in large ecologically flexible species like primates.
Social theory (eg. Byrne & Whiten, 1988) - large brains mainly for social function to intellect, emphasising uniquely complex nature of primate social life.


Brain and social networks: Dunbar's work

Data on neocortex volume, group size and other behavioural ecology variables (body mass, fruit in diet, activity etc) collected from 38 primate taxa correlated (Dunbar, 1992).

- group size positively correlated with CR - SUPPORTING SOCIAL INTELLECT THEORY.
- number of relationships able to monitor simultaneously is limited by size of neocortex.
- group over this limit is unstable.


Brain and social networks: grooming is a social activity

Social animals adapt grooming behaviours to bond and strengthen social structures.

Plays important role in forming social bonds in many primate species.


Brain and social networks: social network size

In primates large groups are created by welding together sets of smaller grooming cliques (Dunbar, 1992).
- clique sizes correlated significantly with CR in primates (Kudo & Dunbar, 2001).


Brain and social networks: Dunbar's number

CR vs group size (Dunbar, 1992; 2003)
- steeper increase in apes than monkeys.

Dunbar extrapolated the correlation and suggested a number of 148 for effective human social group size.
- rounded to 150 = Dunbar's number.
- 231 = Bernard-Killiworth's number (1987) - not as popular.


Brain and social networks: social groups

Predicted social group size for hominoid populations using regression.

Group size increased during primate evolution (Dunbar, 2003).


Brain and social networks: interpreting Dunbar's number

"Number of people you wouldn't mind joining uninvited if you bumped into them" - Dunbar, 1998.

Social brain hypothesis often formulated in terms of this number.

But is more correct to think of as a measure of complexity of social relationships.

Relationships need maintenance, consuming energy and time, thus require a more developed brain.


Social networks in humans: human society

Dunbar's number is an estimation - needs to be checked.


Social networks in humans: using Dunbar's number

W.L Gore & Associates - buildings accommodate 150 employees.

Swedish tax authority - organised offices max 150 per office.

Any group greater than 150 - becomes dysfunctional.
- company size = 75-200.
- organisations > 150 need bureaucracy.


Social networks in humans: social group layers

Support clique: people we seek personal advice from.

Sympathy group: special ties, frequent contact.

Band: acquaintances, less frequent.

Clan: all current contacts.

Megaband & tribe: larger social units.

Closeness and mean time spent interacting with individuals decreases in each layer as the number in the social group increases (Sutcliffe et al, 2012)


Social networks in humans: the expanding circles

Our relationships form a hierarchically inclusive series of increasing size but decreasing intensity (i.e. quality of relationship).
- 150 = limited reciprocated relationships.
- 1500 = limit on memory for faces?

Each circle is 3X larger than the one inside of it (Dunbar, 2014; Roberts, 2010).


Social networks in humans: social media

Can we have a larger network online? - no.

With online group size similar to f-to-f networks (Dunbar, 2012;2016).

Relationship quality suffers without f-to-f interaction.

Similar results found for mobile phone networks (Miritello et al, 2013).


Social time: Mind the gap: why is it important?

Grooming as the bonding agent in primates.
- grooming time determined by group size.
- upper limit about 20% of total daytime.


Social time: social grooming in humans

Humans version = conversation.

Mechanism of social bonding: 60% of conversation is to social topics (eg. gossiping; Dunbar, 1993/2004).

Similar to primates - social grooming.

Language evolvement = gossiping.


Social time: bridging the gap

Religion and its rituals.
Music and dance.
Laughter - trait shared with chimps.


Social time: how grooming works

Music and laughter triggers endorphin uptake (Dunbar, 2012a;b).
- endorphins are relaxing.

Create psycho-pharmacological environment for building trust?


Individual differences: general cognitive abilities

Problem solving: animals with larger brain volume are more capable (Benson-Amram et al, 2016).

Maintenance of social networks requires cognitive functioning - eg. memory.


Individual differences: clique sizes

Size of support clique: innermost circle - predicted y mentalising skills (Stiller & Dunbar, 2007).

Size of sympathy group: most frequent social partners - predicted /explained by memory performance.


Individual differences: sociality

Correlated sociality to brain structure sizes, with body differences and age controlled (Horvath et al, 2011).

Measured sociability using Zuckerman-Kuhlman Personality Questionnaire form III (Zuckerman et al, 2002).
- sociability scores vs. temporal lobe size.


Individual differences: benefit of sociality

Problem solving is more effective socially than individually.
- requires high level of sociality.

The benefit of sociality for general cognition and creativity outweighs the cost for maintaining a large brain (Dunbar & Shultz, 2007).


Individual differences: monkey temporal lobe/PFC

Social group sizes predicted by grey matter density in PFC in macaques (Sallet et al, 2012).


Individual differences: human PFC

Number of internet friends related to grey matter density in various brain regions (Kanai et al, 2011).


Individual differences: social group size vs. PFC

Social network size - predicted by orbital PFC cortex volume (Powell et al, 2012).

Path analysis: the directed dependencies among a set of variables.

Dorsal PFC & Orbital PFC -> intentionality; Dorsal PFC, Orbital PFC & intentionality -> network size.


Intentionality & culture: intentionality

= the power of minds to be about, to represent or to stand for things, properties and states of affairs.

ToM: ability to attribute mental states to oneself and others.

Intentionality = "advanced ToM".

Absolute upper limit for non-humans = 2.

Human adults (minimum level required for religion) = 4 (Dunbar, 2003).

Stiller & Dunbar (2007): intentionality measured as the level at which participants failed ToM questions (M = 5.03).


Intentionality & culture: intention to cheat

Tactical deception is correlated to neocortex ratio in primate taxa (Byrne & Corp, 2004).

Cheating only achievable when one understands other individual's mind.


Intentionality & culture: Tomasello's work

Individual intentionality: personal goal-directed behaviour.
- requires high level of cognitive functioning.

Collective intentionality: conventions and norms built on cultural common ground.

Requires engaging in complex social interactions.
- development of collective intentionality gives rise to human cultures.


Intentionality & culture: individual intentionality

Tomasello et al (2005):

Goal -> decision making -> intention -> action

Decision making also related to attention -> action, reality and result.


Intentionality & culture: joint intentionality

Joint/shared - individuals collaborate in accomplishing a common goal (Tomasello et al, 2005).


Intentionality & culture: Tomasello's work

Argues joint/shared intentionality is the origin of human culture.

Collaboration does not equal cooperation.
- cooperation = each individual does a part but does not interact to produce final product.
- collaboration = link together as networked minds committed to the outcome.


Intentionality & culture: shared intentionality

Collaboration requires high level of shared intentionality - Tomasello (2001/04).

Chimps can point imperatively (to get food) but not declaratively (help find something).

Chimps cannot understand helping behaviour.
- helpers looking in two barrels and pointing at one with food in (Tomasello et al, 2003).
- human children have this ability since 1 year (T, 1999).


Intentionality & culture: what's unique about humans?

Sharing intentionality requires high level of intentionality.
- humans capable, other primates not (Dunbar, 2003; Stiller & Dunbar, 2007).

Human children and chimps have similar cognitive skills for physical world, but humans are better dealing with social world.
- "cultural intelligence hypothesis" (Hermann et al, 2007) - humans have cognitive skills not possessed by other primates for participating in cultural groups.

Tomasello argues that human thinking is fundamentally collaborative and based on joint intentionality, whereas other primates thinking is competitive and based on individual intentionality.
- "shared intentionality hypothesis" (Tomasello et al, 2005) - states distinctive nature of human cooperation is due to behavioural differences produced by the presence of these abilities in human lineage.


Intentionality & culture: developing shared intentionality

Evolution: individual intentionality -> joint intentionality -> collective intentionality.

Stage 1: individual-joint:
- started from small scale dyadic collaboration in hunting and scavenging which created shared goals and joint attention (gaze following).
- more collaborative = more successful hunters and attractive mates -> more offspring -> evolutionary success.

Stage 2: joint-collective:
- as human populations began growing and competing group life became a collaborative activity.
- this created a much larger and more permanent shared world -> i.e. culture.
- language developed during this stage (Tomasello, 2010) from the basis of gestures and pointing.


Intentionality & culture: cumulative culture

Human culture can cumulate over generations, but not in monkeys and apes.

Only observed in human children: teaching, communication, observational, learning, imitation, pro-sociality (Dean et al, 2012).


Criticisms & questions: only theories

Many arguments lack empirical evidence.

- group size limit in hominoid primates.
- the origin of culture.
- origin of human communication.


Criticisms & questions: embodied cognition

Social brain hypothesis follows cartesian dualism: mind vs. matter.
- whilst different substances, causally interact.

Embodied cognition = not only shaped by brain (matter) but also by ming-matter interactions.

More attention needed for environment (Barrett et al, 2007).


Criticisms & questions: social insects?

Brains much smaller than humans are also known to support social relationships.
- eg. social insect hierarchies -> paper wasp.